Global Technology Leader Rhonda Vetere: “I Make Better Decisions When I Am Active.”
An Interview with the CTO of Estee Lauder Companies.
While a recent study by Harvard Medical School said that that over 95% of leaders felt burnt out, a growing number of leaders are thriving in their careers due to their passion for fitness and healthy living. In “The Stronger Leader Series,” Author Pete Leibman, interviews C-level executives, game-changing entrepreneurs, and other high-performers who attribute part of their career success to their active, healthy lifestyles.
This article features highlights from Pete’s interview with Rhonda Vetere, Chief Technology Officer for Estee Lauder Companies.
To nominate yourself or someone else to be featured in a future installment of this series, send an email to Support@PeteLeibman.com and use “Stronger Leader Nomination” as your subject line.
Pete Leibman (PL): “Rhonda, you’re known for having a pretty intense workout regimen. How did your interest in fitness develop?”
Rhonda Vetere (RV): “One day, I woke up after a really long flight, 37 hours of travel time to be precise, and I went straight to the gym. Afterwards, I felt so refreshed. My fitness regimen has really evolved from there. I spend so much time sitting on planes. I need to move and elevate my heart rate.”
PL: How has your fitness regimen evolved throughout your career, and what does your current workout schedule look like?
RV: “This year alone (2017), I’m doing two Ironmans, running the New York Marathon, the New York Half Marathon, two other Olympic triathlons, and four other half-marathons. Last year, I did nine races. I have been working with a coach since January 2016. I tell him all of my races for the year, and all of my travel for the next 4–5 months, although it will obviously change. He designs my training calendar. We use an app called TrainingPeaks where he uploads my workouts. I look at the program one a week at a time, and then open the app daily to see what I need to do. After each workout, I record what I’ve done. I always work out in the morning. It gives me more energy throughout the day. I’ll typically work out for an hour a day on four of the weekdays, and I’ll take one other day off. Then, I’ll usually work out for three hours on each weekend day.”
PL: “How much do you travel for work, and how do you stay active and healthy when you are traveling?”
RV: “I typically travel over 75% of the time. Last September to December was really intense. I was only home in the U.S. for 5 days during that period. I always stay at hotels with 24-hour gyms. That’s a prerequisite. I’ve gotten to the point now where I know what makes my body work, especially when traveling to different countries and different time zones. I work out the day before flights, and not the day of a flight when I just hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Every time I land after a long flight, I change, go right to the gym, and I work out for an hour. It gives me more energy. When you travel, you have to be healthy, or you will get sick. My fitness intensity has actually increased as my travel schedule has increased through the years, and my workout schedule is actually more intense when I’m on the road then when at home.”
PL: “Do you do anything to encourage your colleagues to lead a healthy lifestyle as well?”
RV: “I have converted, for lack of a better word, some of my direct reports to be more interested in fitness. We have discussions about setting goals to take care of your body. I also tell my direct reports not to feel like they have to rush into the office at 630am. I’d much rather they show up at 8am if they use the time to work out or do whatever else they need to do to be healthy.”
PL: Do you have any key nutritional philosophies that you follow closely?
RV: “I eat a lot of protein and carbs, and my body has adapted well to that. My assistant will work with assistants in other countries to let them know about my nutritional requirements. We let people know that I need to have certain foods because I am training for races, and we make it clear that I am not trying to be rude. When I travel, people are always gracious to have rice or pasta for me. Spaghetti Bolognese is one of my most common requests since that’s an easy one.”
PL: “How do you believe that living an active, healthy lifestyle has helped you throughout your career?”
RV: “I make better decisions when I am active, and that quiet time to myself helps me manage stress and also increases my energy. When I work out, I don’t keep my phone with me, and I don’t listen to music. I am very quiet. I want to hear the birds when I run outside. I want to hear the music in the gym when I work out inside. I want to take in the culture when I am traveling. I have a global team, work 24–7, and am in technology, so I’m typically always connected and available. Taking time to be active and free of my phone helps keep me in the game mentally. ”
PL: “Why do you believe it’s important for leaders to make their health and fitness a priority, and what would you say to a leader who believes that he/she is too busy?”
RV: “You have to take care of yourself first if you want to take care of other people as a leader. You always have time for things that are important to you. When you say yes to something, you also say no to something else. Everyone always asks me how I fit in my fitness regimen with my work and travel schedule. This is how I stay healthy. This is how I stay sharp.”
PL: “Do you have any other rituals or habits to recharge and keep your energy high?”
RV: “It’s very important to me to find time to be quiet and to connect with the important people in my life. When I leave work, I usually take a walk to clear my mind. I love the walk to Grand Central when I’m in New York and it’s warm. I’ll put my phone away or I’ll use that time to walk and talk. I don’t use this time for work calls. I’ll call my mom or my best friend or another healthy person in my life who I haven’t spoken to recently. My husband is in the golf industry, so we are definitely a sports family. My family is very healthy and most of my friends are healthy and successful too. I’m proud of that. Surrounding yourself with positive, healthy people makes a huge difference.”
PL: “What is your philosophy on sleep?”
RV: “There is no way I am going to get 7–8 hours of sleep during the week. I aim for 6.5 hours. I cannot operate on 4–5 hours. I always have one day off from exercise each week, so I plan my off days to be the day after something I need to be out for later the night before. When I’m home, I try to be in bed by 10pm or earlier. I’m always up by 4am. I am very a scheduled person. I can sleep 12 hours on a plane, so I also use that time to sleep.”
PL: “In addition to your races, I understand that you also enjoy diving off cliffs. What’s the most memorable cliff you have ever used for diving?”
RV: “Yes, that is true! I grew up a swimmer and a diver, and I love the water. The most memorable cliff dive was in Cabo. There is a spot you can’t reach by land. You have to take a boat ride to get there, and no one dives from there apparently. I was on my way to scuba dive, and I asked the boat driver to take me to this spot. I swam out to it and dove off. The locals had never heard of anyone diving of this cliff before, but I’m adventurous and a risk-taker!”
About the Author: Pete Leibman is an executive recruiter, author, and high-performance coach whose career advice has been featured on Fox News, CBS Radio, and CNNMoney.com. As a leading authority on high-performance, Pete’s currently writing his next book, titled Work Stronger: Habits for High-Performing People and Organizations. Click here for a free report from Pete on “The 5 Keys for Your Strongest, Healthiest Year Ever.”